Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Feastro, Round 2

Feastro the Rolling Bistro on Urbanspoon
After a really excellent first experience at Feastro, I invited a foodie friend who worked downtown to come with me. We were there shortly before 2pm and there wasn't any lineup at all. The fresh sheet had changed and the excellent Manila Clams I had last time were not on the Feastro menu that day. My friend loves crab, so I went with the Crab and Shrimp Cake. She opted for the Bonzai Prawns.

As mentioned in my previous review, the Crab and Shrimp Cake is a good-sized block and sits on a colourful salad that includes a few blackberries, olives, and slices of beet. The salad wasn't heavily dressed and I give it high marks except that the vegetables could have been cut to more manageable slices than whole leaves. Especially on a tiny take-out plate, it was quite inconvenient and had the potential of splashing some dressing on somebody, or on oneself.

The crab cake itself looked very promising. The taste of crab wasn't very strong, so the ratio of crab meat to filler is unclear. However, they weren't skimpy on the shrimp and you can see small whole shrimps inside the cake, dotting it liberally like blueberries in a large blueberry muffin.

What ruined the whole thing was the combination of hot crab cake on cold salad. The crab cake was, as a result, lukewarm when it could have been hot and tasty, fresh from frying. If you try it, I recommend asking for the salad on the side in a separate plate, or substituted with some sweet potato fries.

The Bonzai Prawns were quite simple: Simply boiled prawns in a very delicious sauce. Pre-peeled except for the tail bit. It came with quite a bit of rice with tiny sides to jazz it up, as well as a skewer of what was probably fresh-cut pineapple since the skin was still on. While the grilled pineapple was a nice, tangy, juicy accompaniment, I have to disagee with leaving the skin on after seeing it squirt and dribble all over the place when my friend bit into it. One-bite pieces with no skin would have been much better.

The Crab and Shrimp Cake and the Bonzai Prawns could both use a bit more thought into the composition, but overall it's still tasty food at a good price. Just wear black in case you splash or drip something on yourself.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Fresh gourmet food at Feastro

Feastro the Rolling Bistro on Urbanspoon
Went by Feastro last week for an afternoon date. She had a tight lunch hour, and there was some confusion over where we were supposed to meet, so we just had a measly half hour to dine and dash. Fortunately, things worked out anyway.

The Feastro purple truck had only a moderate line up, possibly because the service was pretty fast. The prices are fair for what you get, considering it's pretty much restaurant quality on a disposable plate. The food seemed to be hot and fresh -- there were no signs that my sweet potato fries were reheated as they were hot and crispy!

I got the Manila Clams from the fresh sheet (not normally available; $14.60 after tax if I remember correctly) and my date picked out the Crab and Shrimp cake ($13 before tax) -- her second choice, because they were out of Bonzai Prawns.

The clams came in a savoury, tasty broth that was almost piping hot. By the time I was done slurping out the clams from their little shells, the broth was still quite hot and made a nice soup to finish my sweet potato fries.

My date was still picking over her Crab and Shrimp cake, which looked like a giant hockey puck and was possibly bigger than her fist! (Well, okay -- she's a bit petite and has a small fist).

As first impressions go, I was blown away. This has got to be the best ever food cart lunch I've had -- I'm impressed enough to want to invite some downtown lunch friends to try it.
You'd probably end up paying more for a sit-down meal (after including tip) and spending more time there. As it was, we were more or less done in the half hour available -- line up, order, and eating. The location is also super-convenient for the abundance of shady benches, more benches across the street all around the spacious convention centre grounds and the Olympic Torch. Add the view from the Sea Wall and the whole experience is better than being crammed in a patio somewhere!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Have a strategy before going to La Casa Gelato

La Casa Gelato on Urbanspoon

To celebrate some of my friends' August birthdays, I herded them down to La Casa Gelato -- the world-famous store with over 200 flavours on-site all the time.

If you've never been there before, it's at least worth a look. Price wise, it's a bit pricey... Two scoops -- generous scoops, I must admit -- in a cone will be about $6.50, which is more than you'd pay for a small tub of ice cream at the supermarket, where the flavours are more conservative but the quality is good. Keep this in mind before you go.

Unlike some ice cream places, you can try as many flavours as you want before buying. And realistically, they probably can't keep track of who's had how many samples when the place is packed virtually shoulder-to-shoulder in the evening.

Given the above, what I'd recommend is two scoops, with ice cream on top and sorbetto on the bottom. Sorbettos tend to be fruity and a more refreshing way to finish than milky/creamy ice cream.

Definitely try various flavours until you get something that you find special. For me, that was a real challenge, actually: Some of the combo flavours didn't work out so well, while others were more gimmick than flavour. Because of this, I think you will find that, sadly, for all 200+ flavours, La Casa Gelato is more gimmick than special.

If you're just going to walk out with basically chocolate or fruit, I'd re-think the trip to La Casa Gelato and instead go to Superstore or Save-on-Food and try a couple of tubs of PC ice cream or Breyers ice cream.
Still, if you've never been to La Casa Gelato, I do recommend you at least check it out and give yourself at least a half hour to try a few flavours that intrigue you.

Monday, August 22, 2011

President's Choice Rip and Dip Pizza

If you've read this blog on and off, you may know that I've been quite pleased with the value-for-dollar of frozen pizza. With pizza wars between Superstore and Save-On-Foods driving down the price to a few pennies less than $5 every now and then, it's hard to shake off $5 as being the par price for reasonable quality.

Every year, Superstore / President's Choice comes up with new products, and there were a few new pizza products in the latest flyer. One of them is the PC Cheese Rip and Dip Pizza (there's also a pepperoni one). It's a new product, so you can expect the price to be closer to $8.

It's also a great idea IN THEORY -- There's the convenience of not having to cut the pizza after you bake it, plus it comes with dipping sauce (which basically tastes like spaghetti sauce). Also not much crust, since you're pulling chunks apart. Finally, the crust/bread is already baked (and too brown, almost burnt-looking, on top, in my opinion) so theoretically you only need to heat it up quickly, although it still says 16-19 minutes in the oven plus 3 minutes cool-down.

Where it falls flat is the very thin toppings. Really, on the cheese one, there's hardly anything there. It may be slightly better with the pepperoni one since you're pretty much guaranteed at least one slice of pepperoni per bread chunk, but for now, I'd give it a pass and wait for the price to come down to, if possible, around $4.

With the pull-apart structure, some of the other regular topping combos may not work out well since the cheese tends to hold everything together, and when you tear apart the crust, they may get stuck to neighboring pieces and not come off cleanly. But we'll see... they may still be able to get it to work in the future, in which case Rip and Dip would definitely be worth revisiting.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Getting Directions, Google Style

As of August 8th, 2011, Google Maps couldn't tell me how to get from Vancouver, BC to Vancouver Island, BC. But it could provide detailed instructions to get from "China" to "Taiwan" (although it's a bit fuzzy on where exactly you land on Taiwan after Step #48, but presumably if you just head inland, you will reach the road indicated in Step #50). Google Maps - directions from China to Taiwan Google Maps - directions from Vancouver to Vancouver Island

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Smacked upside the head by my intuition

A few months ago, I found what I thought was an excellent investment opportunity in Alberta. A company had secured a chunk of land in the Acheson area between Parkland and Edmonton, and by all accounts it was very promising. The mayor of Parkland not only confirmed that development of the area was high-priority to position it for "Port Alberta", but that the development company identified was "one of the best, if not the best" of the companies working on the area.
I also spoke with a hotel chain that had been courted for the hotel to be built, and they were positive about locating there, so it seemed like the development already had a solid buyer even before construction began.

But there were delays at my end. At first, these seemed like ironic annoyances. There was a mail strike which delayed funds from a mutual fund cash-out. After the mail strike, the funds still hadn't arrived after a week, so we cancelled the cheque, in case they got lot. Not three days later, the original (now cancelled) cheques showed up, and it was another two weeks before the new cheques finally arrived.

Then, after I put the money in the bank and asked for a bank draft, I was told there was a 6-business-day hold on the funds. That would normally be 8 days, but there was the long weekend, so it turned out to be 9.

So far, I was more amused than annoyed, but in the back of my mind, something was nudging me. I got the idea that maybe the universe was trying to keep me out of this investment for reasons I can't find out about yet.
All the research I'd done seemed so positive, so I tried to brush it aside.

Then, just yesterday (Wednesday), I finally got the bank draft, and went over to the office to sign the documents. The regular salesperson wasn't there, so he passed it on to someone who hadn't done the documents before. It was 60 pages. Lots to read, and several pages that needed a notary to witness signatures.

There was (what I thought was) a funny clause that said if they couldn't provide me with a Certificate of Title for the land parcel I'd be buying, I would get my money back, BUT less 6% sales commission.
I thought that was unfair since they were basically saying that even if I get no product, I would still be paying commission. As I was writing a $23,000 cheque, this was a big deal to me.
But they wouldn't budge on it, saying no one else had asked about it before, that it was standard, and that it was really a "worst case scenario".

Anyway, I was prepared to let it go, but when I took the documents to the notary, he was extremely unimpressed by how badly it'd been filled out. The sales agent had put down "New West" as short for "New Westminster", which was a no-no. Also, my name had been filled out as "last name, first name", which just isn't done. He advised me to bring it back, because it would otherwise be just chock full of errors to be initialized.

I deferred the whole thing for next time, saying I'd take the existing documents home to read. But ever since the notary, my intuition was screaming at me. Surely, the universe was pulling out all the stops to prevent me from getting into this investment.

I ended up going back to the bank to sheepishly put the money back. Hmm...

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Coconut at Organic Lives

OrganicLives on Urbanspoon

After hearing vegan acquaintances rave about it over and over, I finally got myself down to Organic Lives (around Quebec and 2nd). The initial plan was to rope a few friends together and order one of every dessert. Didn't quite work out schedule-wise, so it was just me and one foodie buddy.

I (of course) ordered and shared "The Ridiculous", expecting it to be chocolate cake since that was what everyone said it was. Well, it was no cake. More like a pie with delicious, smooth, thick (but not too hard) ganache. It is kept slightly chilled at the counter, and if not gulped down it will start to melt at around room temperature (it was a bit of a hot day when we went, though the ceiling fans were blowing).
It's really more like the simple shot-of-chocolate PC Tarte au Chocolat, but with a chocolatey crust and infused with coconut. Not too much of it in the ganache itself, but enough to give it a light, magical touch.
Definitely try it at a mere $7, and a sharable portion considering how much chocolate it will be.

My friend ordered "The OMG", described online as "We dare you not to say it...coconut is a personal obsession of mine and not just because it is the single greatest food on the planet. This is love at first bite and coconut cream forever after".
It was definitely very coconutty, but I was a bit turned off by the texture / sensation in my mouth. It's a very light cream, and in my mouth felt like froth. Otherwise it tasted alright.

I also tried one of the funny drinks, the only one without the ingredients listed -- The "Blue Moon". $15. Tasted like -- you guessed it -- coconut. And something else. Algae, maybe. It was a blue suspension in what was probably coconut water. Tasted a bit gross, actually, but supposedly good for you. It was brought out first as it was supposedly better for your body when downed without any food.
A bit of a gamble at $15. I recommend you ask what the ingredients are first.

In the freezers are a few odds and ends that might be curious to try. I walked out with a fresh seaweed salad to try at home.

Aside: Although you can order at the counter, it's actually a sit-down restaurant, and during your meal there are bussers who will top up your water. So, if you paid at the counter and didn't put down a tip, expecting coffee shop service to go with the sort-of-like-a-coffee-shop ambiance, be kind and throw down a tip before you leave.